when i was a little girl, i loved setting up a special little place in my bedroom where i carefully arranged all of my treasures (usually magical stones!) and twigs and leaves i would gather from the yard. at the time, i didn’t call this a “nature table” or an “altar” but essentially, that’s what i was making.
creating sacred space has always been a particular passion of mine, so creating a meaningful altar feels soul-fulfilling for me. an altar is a surface (usually elevated in some way) containing objects of significance and a place to engage in whatever sort of spiritual practice fits for you.
a nature table is a place where the seasons can be observed and honored. for those of us for whom season and earth intersect with our spiritual practice, these can often look similar.
as ellen dissanyake speaks about, art is about “making special.” she says “this aesthetic ability.. enabled us to ‘bracket off’ the things and activities that were important to our survival, separate them from the mundane, and make them special. we took the objects and practices involved in marriage, birth, death, food production, war and peacemaking and enhanced them to make them more attractive and pleasurable, more intriguing and more memorable. we invented dance, poetry, charms, spells, masks, dress and a multitude of other artifacts to make these associated activities, whether hauling nets or pounding grain, more sensual and enjoyable, to promote cooperation, harmony and unity among group members, and to also enable us to cope with life’s less expected or explicable events.” i feel like altars and nature tables are one very concrete expression of this idea of art as meaning-making or ritual.
in my art therapy practice, i often have something of a nature table going, usually incorporating art materials to invite my clients into the experience of the creative process.
when i facilitate an art process or art therapy group, i usually create a sort of altar-like space in the center of the circle. it includes natural objects and the art materials being offered that day.
my family often creates small birth altars in our home when a close friend is in labor, bringing a baby into the world… keeping a candle lit throughout the birth to send love and light their way. (by the way, i often use my own art on my nature tables, as well as lovely inspiring prints and often these amazing soul cards.)
i’ve blogged about how some of my art therapy mentors created these fabulous portable altars in matchboxes.
now, as a waldorf momma, ideas about the nature table have been brought from the classroom and into our home through my little N.
i am inspired by so many beautiful nature tables i see around the blogosphere. i am so fond of the seasonal beauty mary beth of salt & chocolate brings into her home. she has an amazing nature table photo set on flickr. there’s also a nice waldorf-inspired group on flickr called “the nature table” with many beautiful images.
do you keep a nature table or altar? as you can see, they come in various shapes and sizes. they can live at home or at work, be made with your children or alone, small-scale or large, seasonal or not. i would love to see how you express yourselves in this way, so i’ve set up a pinterest board for this purpose. if you’d like to share your altar or nature table, post the link to your blog entry, image, or pin of your table in the comment section of this post. (and i’ll repin it on my board!) let’s inspire each other!